Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Is it bad?

I have previously always hated Achewood, but this is totally hilarious.

Stars: They're Just Like Us!

They ride the Metro: Ted Olson also got caught in the Orange & Blue Line delays at Farragut West today.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Lily speaks for me.


Mood: tired but somewhat freaked out.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Book List Potpourri

I am alive.

I have been working and eating wild mushroom risotto. Some random book blogging, from here via here:

  1. Worst Books Ever, or Five Hours of My Life I'll Never Get Back: no contest, it's this.
  2. Books I Have Lied About Reading: I may have strongly implied at some points that I worked my way through more than the first two chapters of Wheelock's Latin. That was false.
  3. Books I Have Lied About Liking: I may have given this book a better review than it strictly deserved.
  4. Book-to-Movie Adaptations Where, Frankly, the Movie Was Better: L.A. Confidential. James Ellroy is one of the worst writers working today.
  5. Books I Used to Love, of Which I Am Now Ashamed: Re: the preceding question: I should know, as I owned every Anne McCaffrey novel in high school.
  6. Best Book Titles of All Time: Love in the Time of Cholera.
  7. Books That I Expected to Be Dirtier: Pretty much any "controversial" title from the first half of the 20th c. is a let-down.
  8. My Real Guilty-Pleasure Reads, and Not the Decoys I Talk About Openly: Stephen King.
  9. Books You Must Read Before You Die, but Would Rather Die Than Read: Ada.
  10. Books I Most Often Try to Persuade Other People to Read: Neal Stephenson's stuff, generally.
  11. Authors I Wish Had Written More Books Already: Jane Austen. I'm running out of them, and I'm saving one for when I am old and alone.
  12. Overused Plot Points That Drive Me Nuts: A tie between "middle-aged man meets late-teens girl and falls in lust" and "boy of uncertain lineage finds out he is really noble."
  13. Books in Which I Liked the Secondary Characters Better Than the Main Character, or Books in Which I Wanted to Beat the Main Character Senseless with a Tire Iron: A House for Mr. Biswas.
  14. Books I Lied About Reading and Then Wrote an A+ Term Paper On: Crime & Punishment. I made an A+ book jacket, because in my suburban high school AP English class, that was how we rolled.
  15. Literary Characters I've Developed Crushes On: Tyrion Lannister. Severus Snape. Richard III, from The Sunne in Splendor.
  16. Books I Only Read to Impress Other People: most of the Nabokov I've read was instrumental to romance. Not that I didn't enjoy it. But see No. 9.
  17. Books I Read Because the Author Looked Hot: Iron Council. I knew I wouldn't like it as much as Perdido Street Station or The Scar, but . . . .
  18. Books Which I Read Only for the Sex Scenes: Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books.
  19. Books a Man Has Given Me That Made Me Swear to NEVER Go on Another Date with Him EVER Again: I should have done this with the guy who gave me a copy of "In Defense of Elitism" as a birthday present. But I didn't, because I am an idiot.
  20. Books That Are Better Read While Travelling and/or Away from Home: Anything from before 1900 is better in a train. Attention spans were longer then, and an enforced lack of competing distractions lends the required focus so such books may be savored.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Potter Penis

Is the photo discussed here illegal under 18 U.S.C. 2256 & 2252? If the photo contains "lascivious exhibition of the genitals," determined with reference to the following factors from U.S. v. Dost, it may be.

  • Whether the genitals or pubic area are the focal point of the image;
  • Whether the setting of the image is sexually suggestive (i.e., a location generally associated with sexual activity, such as a bed);
  • Whether the subject is depicted in an unnatural pose or inappropriate attire considering her age;
  • Whether the subject is fully or partially clothed, or nude;
  • Whether the image suggests sexual coyness or willingness to engage in sexual activity; and
  • Whether the image is intended or designed to elicit a sexual response in the viewer.
Of course, to apply these factors you'd have to actually look at the picture, which I for one am not going to do. Chicken, meet egg.

You must die; I alone am best.

Some website is stealing my posts. I asked them to stop but they have not complied. What should I do now?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Now I am ticked off.

PG impressively misses the entire point of my criticism of Posner's recent free speech decision. The message the students sought to express was childish (unsurprising, since plaintiffs were children).* But the First Amendment protects childish expression, immaturely conceived protests, and silly speech. I spent four years within spitting distance of Pitzer College; I have witnessed many people over age 18 exercise their First Amendment rights in ways as that were just as ridiculous as the Gifties' t-shirt stunt.

It is elitist to assert that the First Amendment does not protect ill-conceived and poorly articulated messages like the students'. It is elitist to assume that speech concerning topics Posner thinks are important is worthy of First Amendment protection while speech about topics that other people--children are people--think are important is unworthy.

While there are valid reasons to be concerned about disruption to the school environment arising out of student protests, ideas are innately disruptive. And absent evidence that particular ideas are the schoolkid equivalent of fighting words (itself a problematic First Amendment concept), there's no good justification for banning a silent protest. Was the students' implicit message of Giftie superiority over Tard rule a good message? Was it a message the school should promote? No. But as KRS pointed out, the First Amendment protects nasty ideas along with nice ones. I used to enjoy snarky, nasty judicial opinions like this. But the judge I clerked for was a true gentleman, and he always said that each case is important to someone, and thus we should keep our snark in check and give a reasoned and fair account in our opinions. This case was important to the kids who filed it (who are probably brats), but it's also going to be important to less obnoxious students who want to express a more sympathetic message but are foiled by autocratic administrators. Contra PG, students do sometimes have strong political views.

And this was itself a form of political speech. This was a protest about an election, for heaven's sake. Some Americans have been protesting elections since 2000. You would think that in this day and age students would be encouraged to question the authorities who administer elections. The ability to exercise constitutional rights intelligently and responsibly is not beamed into your head, Matrix-style, at age eighteen. It must be taught. The wannabe-√úbermenschen's demand for electoral transparency is a reasonable request framed within a childish context. It is not the equivalent of shouting "fire" in a crowded cafeteria. It is speech and it should be protected.

* Granted, the suit is seriously problematic on other grounds. I am only concerned with Posner's broad indictment of student speech.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I am actually in a better mood than this post reflects.

43 percent of Americans read at a fifth-grade level or lower. That explains a lot.

Relatedly: I've been meaning to write something about Posner's opinion in the Gifties v. Tards case, but I'm just not able to work myself into a suitable state of righteous anger* right this moment. For now, suffice it to say that Posner's opinion is dangerously elitist in its refusal to protect speech that is childish or uneloquent. The First Amendment is not just for those of us who can articulate reasoned policy positions for our beliefs. It's also for people who think "fuck the draft" conveys everything they want to say and for those who express themselves via crude bumper stickers. Pamphleteers, wavers of giant puppets, exotic dancers, pompous law professors, performance artists, and talking heads all have the right to free expression. Children do too. If Posner had decided Tinker, would we have heard about the silliness of wearing armbands?

Similarly, his brusque assertions about the existence of other avenues of protest, such as petitions to the principal and school council, ignore the importance of being able to communicate the message of a protest to different audiences; expressing something to one's schoolmates is not the same as expressing something to a school official. That way lies the carefully fenced-off "free speech zone."

I wonder what else could be considered an "inappropriate slogan" in public schools: anti-war messages? anti-Bush messages? anti-homosexuality messages in a school with gay students? Posner's ruling tars all such expression with a pretty broad brush. It was apparently more important for the judge to snark at the students than it was for him to respect the rights at issue.

* (Okay, so I guess I worked up a ranty head of steam after all.)

UPDATE: PG says I'm wrong. I rebut her here.

Taxing Sexual Expression

Wouldn't there be First Amendment implications to requiring sexually-oriented businesses like adult theaters and bookstores to pay a $5,000 registration fee?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Curious Case of Benjamin Kunkel

Q: Why are media products about the indecision of twenty-something men so popular?

A: Because there are so many indecisive twenty-something men.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Watching your every move

After reading some of the recent posts on prison rape, I have to wonder: does the future of the Panopticon-style prison lie not in additional guards but in webcams?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

If this is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Inspired by this blog, this Atlantic article, and this recent occurrence: the hotness of Ralph Fiennes.

Q & A: Exploitation Edition

Old & Busted: "Justice Scalia, do you sodomize your wife?"

New Hotness: "Senator McCain, did you save yourself for marriage?"

DISCLAIMER: I would not ask either of these questions.

Also, via G: Opting out of the cervical cancer vaccine = slow-motion honor killing: true or false?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Random Roundup: Exploitation Edition

- This movie website literally made me queasy. I think I'll just rewatch The Opposite of Sex and pretend that Christina Ricci is not blonde and anorexic. (via)

- If you are Anna Nicole Smith's dead son's babymama, now would be a good time to call the Enquirer. Or even if you're not, but have a plausible story that you might be.

- Are hot people worse lawyers? Are Tier 3 law students hotter than YLS students? Are these connected?

- What does Andrew Sullivan's theory mean for public sex and nudity?

- This is the first premise that I've ever actually wanted to write a law review article about.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another fake NY Times trend piece

News flash: Cooking skill in men is no proof of character. Sexist jerks are still sexist jerks in the kitchen.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Want, Take, Have?

I want this a lot.

Matter over mind

Am I the only one who has a mental block about eating some foods? I ate eel many times when I was in Japan, but I cannot eat it here; there's something about consciously consuming giant snake-worm that makes me want to gag. Ditto cauliflower, which I unknowingly but enthusiastically ate at Saravana Palace this weekend and now feel vaguely sickened by due to memories of traumatic childhood dinner experiences (solution to having to eat cauliflower is not to mash up in potatoes; this only gives you twice the volume of cauliflower-flavored food). Ditto huitlacoche.

UPDATE:I blame canned vegetables for my childhood hatred of all veggies, which lingers to this day. I refuse to eat bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, English peas, lima beans, cooked carrots, squash, asparagus, and yams. Many veggies were first presented to me in in canned form; only recently have I come around on green beans, which were historically associated with mushy, fibrous, dull-colored matter floating in liquid vaguely reminiscent of urine, and on spinach, which to my childhood self also smelled like pee and was typically prepared with mayonnaise.

The best ways I found to learn to like veggies are the PG-advocated curry method and budget travel (if you only have money for one non-picnic meal per day, you will eat everything). But the aftereffects of being raised on canned crap still have not been shaken. Alas for my queasy stomach.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

WTF Watch

The Scooby Gang is, to some extent, the Ku Klux Klan.

Discuss.

Dress Me

I am having some suits made and the tailor is coming tomorrow. Any suggestions for hot looks I should copy? Links to images are a must.

Middlebrowness for middlebrowness's sake

Despite being a bookworm, I have serious problems with this post vaunting the merits of reading "literary fiction." Mostly, it's that it buys into the bogus and arbitrary category of literary fiction, which somehow encompasses spy thrillers, Atwood's don't-call-it-science-fiction, and Amy Tan* but which is somehow distinct (and, I sense, above) genre fiction such as chick lit.

Isn't the problem with chick lit that most of it's just plain awful? Badly-written chick lit, like badly-written westerns, romances, fantasies, or spy thrillers, is to be condemned. Good writing should be endorsed, but not by scooping it up from its genre ghetto and dubbing it "literary." How can someone flaunt her escapist tastes so bluntly and yet hitch her skirts so as not to be contaminated by dirty, nasty non-"literary" fiction?

And then there's the link to this study. Does anyone else think it's worthless since there's no controlling for gender? It makes me feel more balanced, as a antisocial and nerdy fiction reader, but what's the scientific value?

Bah.

* I defy anyone who says that Amy Tan is not chick lit, albeit of a self-consciously ethnic variety. Ditto any of the recent books out of Britain about the Asian woman's immigrant experience.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Barack Obama's Church

This strikes me as very odd.
Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness”

Classic methodology on control of captives teaches that captors must keep the captive ignorant educationally, but trained sufficiently well to serve the system. Also, the captors must be able to identify the “talented tenth” of those subjugated, especially those who show promise of providing the kind of leadership that might threaten the captor’s control. Those so identified as separated from the rest of the people by:

  • Killing them off directly, and/or fostering a social system that encourages them to kill off one another.
  • Placing them in concentration camps, and/or structuring an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons.
  • Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of “we” and “they” instead of “us”.
So, while it is permissible to chase “middle-incomeness” with all our might, we must avoid the third separation method-the psychological entrapment of Black “middleclassness”: If we avoid the snare, we will also diminish our “voluntary” contributions to methods A and B. And more importantly, Black people no longer will be deprived of their birthright, the leadership, resourcefulness, and example of their own talented persons.
Can someone explain? Isn't the implication that only 10% of people are "talented" enough to be middle-class?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Reflections on the Marcotte Affair

Considering how profane I can be in person, this blog contains remarkably little swearing.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Good Things

The three best things I saw online today:

- Ilya Somin on how takings law is like the philosophy of the Rogue Slayer.

- Sue, with a flashback to the political rhetoric of the Founders' time. (Hint: Aaron Burr being accused of sleeping with his daughter = tip of the iceberg.)

- Emily Nussbaum on the death of privacy.

Tara

Phoebe Maltz doesn't understand my acceptance of a bag worth 500 meals but my rejection of a car worth a house. It's probably irrational. A house is unlike any of the others, which are fleeting and consumable. You (or worse, someone else) can wreck a car, and even a nice one is probably only going to last a decade. But a house, absent fire, flood, or whirlwind, will stand for a lifetime. And owning a house means you own the land, and the land--
Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts. . . . . It will come to you, this love of the land. There's no gettin' away from it if you're Irish.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

In which I rationalize indulgence

Per the comments to this post, why I bought an insanely expensive handbag and what I feel I am paying for:

1. Reputation of manufacturer: when you spend a lot on a handbag, the company will often repair it for low or no cost with equivalent materials, making the bag good as new. An emerging designer, using the same high-quality materials, might be willing to do this, or he might be a fly-by-nighter. One must also weigh the probability that the bag require repairs in the first place. I would rather have a very well-made bag at $2X that only requires one repair every five years than a fairly well-made bag for $X that requires repair every two years. This leads to . . .

2. Quality of materials: I know Sarah said she doesn't buy this, but I have never seen such leather in my life. It is supple, tough, soft. I have no particular attachment to the Fendi brand or marketing; in fact, I don't like their clothes, sunglasses, or even their (tacky) cloth logo bags. But when I saw one of their Selleria bags on a pedestal in a Vegas shop, it literally stopped me in my tracks and I had to have it. I didn't buy it then, either; I waited for a month and then, when I realized I still wanted it, purchased it in Houston. It is the finest thing I have ever owned. I used to have a designer cloth bag that I paid over $100 for (on a student budget this was big; I was hit by a similar thunderbolt in Italy while traveling and had to have it). It quickly became stained, scuffed, and ugly. With a year of use, this bag has no signs of wear.

3. Cost effectiveness relative to other luxury goods I might buy: Bear with me here. I bought this bag about a year ago. I carry it every day and plan to do so until it falls apart (a long time from now; see #1). Cost per use thus far is about $5 and will only go down. A fancy diamond necklace might cost more than my bag, but could not be worn every day; its cost per use might be in the hundreds, even if one had a few formal occasions per year. Likewise designer shoes, which probably don't match everything and are more likely to be taken out of commission by a subway grate before they wear out. Designer clothes similarly have a high cost per use, and the more distinctive they are, the less frequently they can be worn (I take it that this form of caring what other people think is not terrible objectionable). It is really most like a Rolex, but I don't care for Rolexes.

4. Aesthetics: At the risk of sounding all Miranda Priestley, fashion is (or at least can be) art. I am not terrible stylish, but I do like beautiful things and sometimes I am willing to pay for them. Sarah points out that the raw materials and labor are only a small part of the price. Certainly the raw materials and labor to create an oil painting are also small, but the most lovely ones still fetch large sums. Loveliness is rare and must be pursued with abandon.

Not naming names

The deadpan flirtatiousness of certain married male bloggers is baffling to me.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Luxury goods

I own a $1,000+ handbag but I would never date a guy who bought a $100,000 car. (Sometimes you cannot transcend your upbringing. That could buy a house where I grew up.)

I think of the handbag as a leather sculpture that I carry things in. I paid a lot of money for aesthetics, durability, and craftsmanship. It is the smaller version of this, in black. I like to think that Virginia Postrel would understand and that men who find this substantively different from watches or bespoke suits are in denial.

But then there is this:
You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition has given you some length of bone, but you're not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling? And that accent you've tried so desperately to shed? Pure West Virginia. What's your father, dear? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the lamp? You know how quickly the boys found you... all those tedious sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars... while you could only dream of getting out... getting anywhere... getting all the way to the FBI.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Another Gallaudet student on the rampage

I feel like I have made this point before, but a search of the blog archives turned up nothing. I'm not feeling well and I'm grumpy, so forgive me if this is a repeat.

Some Gallaudet student is agitating for a ban on anonymous sperm and egg donations. One of her arguments is that offspring of anonymous donors don't have health histories that could help spot genetic illnesses and defects.

Read my lips: knowing your biological ancestry is no guarantee of perfect or even any knowledge about such health risks. Your family could be estranged, die before such defects manifested themselves, or just plain be too tight-lipped and secretive about medical information to tell you just what Grandma or Uncle Stu died of. If anything, the offspring of anonymous donors might be better off than many naturally conceived people, since presumably any reputable gamete bank would inquire about genetic predispositions on its intake documentation. I highly doubt hemophiliacs' sperm or eggs from sickle-cell anemics are being implanted willy-nilly.

This is such a helplessly bourgeois objection to anonymous donation that it makes me sick(er). Not everyone has a family tree with medical notation in the file cabinet in their spare bedroom. To say that there's a right to this information presumes that, absent anonymity, it is available. But for many people it is not. The offspring of anonymous donors, like millions of other Americans, will have to wait for personalized gene sequencing to find out what horrible deaths may await. Suck it up.

Monday, February 05, 2007

War on Science

This keeps me up nights: do some of my favorite children's books (Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH and its sequel) inculcate children with Lamarckian theories of evolution?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Put your money where your mouth is.

A proposed ballot initiative in Washington State would strip marriage rights from childless couples in response to the state supreme court's holding that the state interest in preserving marriage for procreation justified a ban on same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a modest proposal for establishing prayer in schools.

The Financial Impact of Stillbirths

People sometimes bash the United States for having a higher rate of infant mortality than European countries. Others respond by claiming that many of the dead infants in the U.S. statistic would be counted as stillbirths abroad. According to this I.R.S. FAQ, it appears that American parents have a financial incentive to have their dead baby classified as a live birth rather than a stillbirth. Could that have some impact on the stats? (via)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Culture Clash

As with Battlestar Galactica, I just don't find the central conflict of this compelling. The Amber version of the movie would be fifteen minutes long.

Pluck off the bull's horns and set them in my forehead

Check out the comments to this post. Now classify the commenters as Earthling, Martian, Venusian (Venerean, if you prefer Latin), or unidentified other extraterrestrial.

I did like the point that a cheating spouse, for some, is more easily forgiven than a cuckolding friend because the cuckold views the spouse's betrayal as responsive to some intra-relationship escalation of hostilities and the friend's betrayal as ex nihilo. A lot of the rest, though, had little connection to emotional reality as I experience it. Sleeping with a friend's spouse, absent some unconventional relationship norms, betrays that friend, no matter what the gender of the parties.

The SF situation, as I understand it, would not have a dramatic effect on my voting behavior. But I don't purport not to understand those who view trustworthiness as a necessary quality in a political figure and who would view this as evidence that Newsom is not trustworthy. It depends on whether you think people who break faith with friends are also likely to break faith with constituents and political allies.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Heh.

If some people were ticked off about test-takers in HLS t-shirts during the bar exam, I can only imagine how this would go over.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

He cannot metabolize the grapes!

Am v. depressed. Was moderately cheered by appearance of Paul Reubens on 30 Rock.